So how do we become better active listeners?
1. Remove or avoid distractions – We’re all guilty (me included!) of having our smartphone glued to us, with one eye on the screen whilst pretending to fully listen to somebody. Get rid of the smartphone, turn the TV or laptop off and concentrate on the person in front of you. Maybe go for a walk, so the distractions are nowhere in sight.
2. Pay attention to the person who is talking and maintain good eye contact. Good listeners show genuine interest by asking probing questions and more importantly, they don’t interrupt or offer solutions mid conversation.
3. Think about your body language. Consider how far away or how close you are to the person. Make sure you face the person who is talking because it shows that you are interested and willing to listen. Think about your posture and facial expressions as they can be quite telling to the person sat opposite you.
4. Wait until the person has finished talking before commenting because they may just want to sound off to somebody. Remember to always withhold your own assumptions to prevent jumping to conclusions. Give them a chance to get whatever it is off their chest.
5. Be honest with the other person. If you’re tired or in a rush, ask them if you can continue the conversation later, so you can properly focus on listening to them. Always make sure you do return to the conversation because they may really need that chat.
6. If you’re asked for advice, always think before you speak. Use personal examples or situations that you’ve been in and offer suggestions which you think many help them.
7. Remember that we all express our emotions in very different ways, so try not to judge people whilst you’re listening.
Always remember to be honest and empathetic, but most of all be kind. If you can’t be kind, be quiet!
Make the Change.